My Messed Up Name


Today’s prompt from The Daily Post is to talk about your name. My name has been a source of contention in my inner life, so it seemed natural to write about it. So here you go…

My name is Anna. I don’t like it. Never have.

When I was little, I begged my mom to be renamed. At the time, I was in love with all things Strawberry Shortcake, and strawberries, themselves, were my favorite food. Needless to say, Mum wasn’t that surprised when I told her that I’d like to legally change my name to Strawberry. She very calmly told me that I’d have to wait until I was 18, but if I still felt like being Strawberry, she’d let me make the change. Obviously by the time I left home, being named after a fruit (or a sweet-smelling doll) didn’t appeal to me quite as much, so I’m still Anna.

Anna isn’t my real name, either. My whole name is actually Maryanna Louise.

Louise was my mom’s grandmother’s middle name, and is also my mom’s middle name. One day, it will be my daughter’s middle name. It’s an ugly name, but I like the thought that I’ll be able to torture my own kid with it. There’s a power in an obvious lineage, and the thought of a lasting inside joke appeals to me.

As for my real first name, I didn’t use it until after high school, and by then it was too late to adopt as a name. Anyway, by then it fit me even less than Anna did.

There’s a story behind my naming. My parents didn’t know what to name me. They knew that if they had a boy, his name would be Robert Edward Baines Harris. REB, as in rebel. They were young and stupid, and probably would have ended up creating an anarchist with a name like that. Luckily, they had a girl. Mum wanted to name me Elizabeth, but Daddy hated the name. He pulled out a phone book, opened it up randomly, and pointed down. His finger happened to land on Maryanna. They were both pleased, and that was that.


In the next town over, there’s a pretty well known trailer park named Maryanna Mobile Home Estates. When I was little, it was a great place to score drugs or pick up a hooker.

Plus, in all the stress of pregnancy and a young marriage, my parents had somehow forgotten that my mom’s mother’s name is Marianne. Pretty huge mistake on their part, since the moment they shared my name with the family, my other grandmother freaked out and didn’t talk to either of them for a couple of weeks.

So the choice to leave off the “Mary” portion of my name was made pretty much immediately. I’ve been Anna ever since. I use Maryanna for official paperwork, and people sometimes ask me why I don’t go by the full thing. I always explain the trailer park and my grandmother, and get a few laughs. But for me it’s really not a laughing matter. My name doesn’t suit me, and never has. I’m not a trailer park. I’m not my grandmother. I feel more connection to my middle name than my primary one, but I don’t think it’s really the right fit, either.

What’s kind of funny is that the names I love most are nicknames people have called me almost since the beginning, two silly names that are just as bad as Strawberry. But the people I’ve loved most have called me something sweet in special moments, at times when I’ve felt the most “me.” So I treasure them. What would those names be, you ask?

The first is something my father started calling me when I was little – Little Mouse. I had what he referred to as “mousy brown” hair when I was small, and was a very quiet, bookish child, so Mouse fit me just fine. I still call myself Maus, and probably would have started asking people to call me Maus earlier had not my aunt’s cat been named Maus, too.

And the other name?

Banana. You can laugh – it’s OK. But something about hearing a best friend call me by my nickname, with love in her voice, it’s really the best thing I’ve ever heard. Only two friends have ever managed to call me Banana in a non-joking way. Before college, when people said “Anna Banana” I wanted to puke, or punch them in the face. But my two college roommates / best friends turned a joke into something sweet, and now I love it when we’re talking and my nickname comes out. It feels like sisterhood, or what I’d imagine sisterhood to be.

So will I change my name? Probably not. I don’t know. What do you think?

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Ann says:

    It’s funny… I’ve always loved the name Anna and would rather be Anna than Ann which sounds and looks too short to my eyes, not to mention my last name was just one syllable. I have a thing for the shapes of letters and like the way Anna is perfectly balanced. Perhaps it’s a touch old fashioned (it was my grandmother’s name, so why didn’t my parents name me Anna? No idea!), but then many classic names have made a complete comeback… just look at Olivia, Sophia, Emma… all those end-with-a names.
    I’m enjoying your blog… thanks for the Twitter follow as it’s how I found my way here.

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